According to the National Farmers Union (NFU), around 1,000 farmers are currently waiting for 2018 Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) and agri-environment scheme payments, while around 4,000 businesses are still due payment for work done two years ago.
The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) told farmers in December that, while it has paid more than 97 per cent of BPS 2018 scheme users, farmers who have not received payment by March will receive a bridging payment in April.
This is an improvement on the same time last year when more than 3,000 bridging payments were made. However, frustrated farmers, who have followed all the rules and yet still received no recompense, say they are losing confidence in environmental schemes and are nervous about entering new agreements.
A senior adviser on BPS at the NFU said that the scheme’s bridging payments are expected to be issued after 5 April and should be with all eligible recipients by late April.
The RPA took over responsibility for processing Countryside Stewardship and Environmental Stewardship agreements last October. However, some farmers are still awaiting Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) and Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) payments for work completed in 2016 and 2017.
A spokeswoman for the NFU’s countryside service called the delays “ridiculous”, saying that the outstanding fee, which amounts to some 25 per cent of the annual total payment, should have been received by June 2018 at the latest. As she pointed out, farmers incur costs going into the scheme and the payment is to cover those costs, so they are out of pocket.